Indien: Mrinalini V Sarabhai

Before dance was appropriated by the elite, it was a people's form-Mrinalini has just brought to it a contemporaneous, society-changing dynamism that deals with a host of issues.

— Mrinalini V Sarabhai

Mrinalini V Sarabhai (born 1918), renowned dancer and choreographer, is credited with the fusion of traditional "pure" dance forms with contemporary issues. She has addressed a range of issues like communal harmony, environmental issues, alcoholism, gambling, dowry, sexual harassment, female foeticide, AIDS awareness, leprosy, corruption, family planning, and women's rights. She gave the Indian dance world a sense of direction: a shift from the traditional to the contemporary by forcefully addressing social issues.

Renowned and venerated dancer and choreographer Mrinalini Sarabhai single-handedly took classical Indian dance beyond the shores of India, giving Bharatanatyam (a classical dance form of southern India) a cachet of respect throughout the world. More crucially, she is responsible for the "fusion" of this traditionally purist art form with burning contemporary issues. Deeply interested in dance and theater as a child, Mrinalini braved social opposition to take up Bharatanatyam. As an adult, she began to use dance as a tool for social change, leading to her founding the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts in 1948. Mrinalini has received numerous awards, recognitions, and honors. She has come a long way from the time when her concept of the arts was regarded as unviable, even alien, and support and funds for her performances were wanting. Even now, her relentlessness has led to opposition: her involvement in a peace meeting on the Gujarat genocide, for example, led to the stoning of the Darpana Academy. The simplicity of Mrinalini's expression helps everyone, regardless of caste, class, religion, or region, understand the true complexity of the cardinal issues.

Darpana Academy of Performing Arts